CEO Wants HP to Replace Apple as “Cool” Company

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Leo Apotheker, HP’s new CEO, wants his company to replace Apple when it comes to being “cool” in consumer minds. In an interview last week with the BBC (during Macworld), Mr. Apotheker was touting two upcoming announcements from his company, and he said that he wants his company to deliver a unique experience to its customers, and communicate that story more effectively.

“I hope one day people will say ‘this is as cool as HP’, not ‘as cool as Apple’,” Mr. Apotheker told the BBC. He made the case that HP was the only company in the PC space that was “equally good on the consumer side and on the [enterprise] side,” and that this would help his company change its image.

Mr. Apotheker might have his sights on Apple’s cool factor, but in September 2010, executive vice president Tom Bradley said during TechCrunch 2010 that HP wasn’t even trying to emulate Apple, saying specifically, “Emulating Apple is not part of our strategy.”

As the incoming head of the company, part of the new CEO’s job will be getting his executives in line with whatever vision he has for the company to move forward.

HP CEO Lee Apotheker

HP CEO Lee Apotheker

As suggested by Mr. Apotheker, HP is one of the most successful companies in the PC space. The company is currently generating US$126 billion in annual revenues, more than Apple (though that could conceivably change this year), but the market values HP far less than Apple. At the market’s close Wednesday, HP’s market cap was $102.7 billion, while Apple’s clocked in at $317.2 billion, making it the world’s second most valued company behind Exxon Mobil.

Mr. Apotheker comes to the company after a long search to replace Mark Hurd, who resigned in the wake of a internal sexual harassment investigation (that found he had not violated policy, but had made mistakes in judgement).

Mr. Hurd, who is now at Oracle, had lead HP to new heights in the consumer and enterprise markets, but no one in the history of technology has actually accused HP of being “cool,” making Mr. Apotheker’s goal admirable in both its ambition and audacity.

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Thank God I did not have a mouthful of coffee as I read that headline…


HP and cool in the same sentence

The first rule of “cool” is if you are trying to be cool you automatically aren’t.


Does he not know that nothing is as uncool as trying to be cool?


Give the man some credit - this approach definitely beats the usual tech exec tactic of pretending as though Apple are some non-entity or fringe company that poses no real threat and doesn’t deserve emulation. How many times have we heard the blatantly bogus “Apple?! Pffff… as if we’d try and copy Apple!” response from some CEO when it’s painfully clear that his/her engineers are pre-ordering every Apple product to reverse-engineer it. Apotheker has displayed the right attitude, at least - he’s acknowledged that Apple are cool, and HP are not, and that in that sense he wants HP to be more like Apple. Can’t say the man’s in Ballmer-esque denial, and I admire his boldness for making this a priority.


How can HP be cool when all they provide printers and empty PCs filled with someone else’s operating system? Providing a cool box doesn’t make the product cool, it’s what’s inside that counts….


He’s wearing a suit.  There is no way he can make HP “cool” if he’s wearing a suit.  I remember the quote from an Apple guy when told that they might make a better impression on the AT&T board of directors if they wore suits:

“We’re Apple, we don’t wear suits.  We don’t even own suits.”

Lee Dronick

He?s wearing a suit.? There is no way he can make HP ?cool? if he?s wearing a suit.?

Hey I recently started going back to dressing like that, after 40 years of casual. Early in January I bought a fedora like the one Jack Abramoff wore. I am saving up for a Burbury trench coat, they cost about as much a 27” iMac, I may settle for a London Fog brand.

Getting back on topic. His attitude is what is needed if he wants HP to be a success, to be better a choice than Epson or Brother. Consider their new printers where you can use AirPrint or email a document to the printer.


The only way you can do that is ditch Windows on your consumer PCs and come up with your own cool OS, much like Mac OS X!


Does he not know that nothing is as uncool as trying to be cool?

Surely he knows that, and must be merely trying a devious ploy to indirectly ridicule Apple’s “cool” image by pretending like a satirical clown to covet such a silly thing as corporate “coolness”, thereby demonstrating how pathetically comical everyone seeking (and/or getting) such “coolness” makes oneself appear (implying that Apple only has its “coolness” because Apple also sought it, like him).


Why is it so hard for other tech companies to grasp that Apple’s cred comes from making great products? This is on par with Google saying they’re all about innovation. And for what it’s worth, as some may recall, they had their shot with the HP branded iPod way back when and it didn’t seem to matter. Great products create an image and a market, not vice versa, you dopes.

Anyone that has followed the Apple story from the twee beginnings of their comeback knows they got where they are by taking risks, not by playing follow (or worse, steal from) the leader.

The lack of original thought in the upper echelons of tech companies these days numbs the mind.


How about he actually be cool and appeal to SJ to finally allow OSX on HP systems.

(Like that’s ever gonna happen)


Admirable, albeit Quixotic.


H-P was never cool.  It’s mystic and beauty was the geekiness of their products.  Engineers used their RPN calculators because it was geeky, not because it was cool.


These ex-SAP guys can have a strange perspective on the world (I know from past, bitter experience).

Don’t take Leo too literally.  He would just as likely say “cooler than Apple” if he made whiteware or cars.  The fact that Leo leads HP simply makes his aspirations sound strange to anyone who doesn’t understand how he thinks. 

He wants HP to be even better in the WinPC space - which is not unachievable; but I don’t think anyone will ever say HP is cool.


HP was actually cool for a little while….then Woz left.


I dunno, if HP plays their cards right they have a shot at coming out with some neat stuff. Their recent teasers for the upcoming WebOS event on the 9th are already a billion times better than any of Palm’s previous attempts at marketing.


this approach definitely beats the usual tech exec tactic of pretending as though Apple are some non-entity or fringe company

That is a very good point.
I will wish him luck, mostly in the hope that they crush Dell.


At Apple, the focus seems to be on the products. Being cool is a result, not the goal. Make some insanely great products and let the coolness factor work (or not).


let me choose OS shipped with your products, that’d be keewl.


And I want to make a kittens ‘n’ puppies video that’ll go viral on YouTube.


I hope at least 2 US operations give Apple some competition.  Getting really tired of Apple greed and arbitrary, constantly changing rules.  Apple, we loved you—last century.


Sorry HP, but you’ll NEVER be cool as long as you continue to rape us when we buy ink for your crappy printers!


maybe he’s using statements like that so his investors don’t crucify him when the company tries something different.

WebOS is different and it allows HP to control the whole widget. They can copy the entire infrastructure for their tablet just like Steve (errr, Mr. Jobs) did when he stole the idea from XBox Live (or Wii or whatever other walled garden type environment inspired the iOS ecosystem.)

On the whole, I cannot fault him for lofty abstract language that can be used to justify any number of initiatives.


Geoduck’s got it right on…

The first rule of ?cool? is if you are trying to be cool you automatically aren?t.


If HP (or any company) wants to be cool, they need to be the first at something. Nobody could make their name with mp3 players after the iPod. Nobody’s going to make their name on tablets now, after the iPad. Nobody’s going to make their name on phones, either. They can release great products in these fields, and those products might even be successful, but they won’t transform the company’s image. To do that, you need to be first.

Look at Windows Phone 7 (or whatever it’s called). From everything I hear it’s a really solid product. But it’s not going to make Microsoft cool. It’s too late for that.

When I say “first”, I don’t necessarily mean first to market. There were mp3 players before the iPod. There were all-in-one PCs before the original iMac. There have been tablets for a decade or more. But they were all so mediocre that they hardly mattered.

If HP can take something that’s always been done wrong and finally do it right, they can become cool like Apple. If they take something that’s been done right and do it better, it’s not enough. They’ll also need good marketing, which is incredibly rare.

Here’s an idea: Start with your core business. Make a printer that doesn’t suck! I’d buy it. No, it wouldn’t make you sexy or all that cool, but it would make me, and a lot of others, like you. It’s one of the great mysteries of technology that printers suck as badly as they do in the year 2011. By taking something that’s been done wrong so many times for so many years, and has been the source of immense frustration, and finally doing it right, you can own the mind share—and probably also the market share.

You would, of course, also need to STOP selling all your current models that DO suck. And you’d replace them with something probably a few hundred dollars more expensive. Cool people take risks.


@ Mikuro.  Spot on.  Printing has always been - and still is - a pain in the backside.  There have been great strides with ink technology and printer hardware; but the printing processes can be such a hit-and-miss affair -  on any platform by any manufacturer. Does no-one like to write the drivers, or what?

For example - I use iTunes to print CD jewel case inserts. If I use a directly-attached printer it works fine. If I use a similar printer, but shared, the printed insert comes out too small - it doesn’t fit the jewel case. I’ve tried for hours, tweaking all the parameters, but to no avail. (Just an example - please don’t swamp me with suggestions)

It’s not surprising that Apple doesn’t make a printer; it would tarnish their reputation.

If HP produced a range of printers with a printing system - that just worked. That would be cool.

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